Monday, June 27, 2016

It was Farage wot won it…

The “Good Cop/Bad Cop” theme is at the heart of much Police drama. You know the story. The police operate, and especially interrogate, in pairs. One of the cops is blunt, tough, forceful. The other is your friend. Understands you. Maybe even places a reassuring arm around your shoulder. And between them they get you to sing.

The “Leave” the European Union campaign was split down the middle – or so, at least, both sides wanted us to believe. The official “Vote Leave” campaign (the “Good Cops”) had a Board of Members of Parliament and well known political figures including Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Lord Lawson, Lord Owen, Liam Fox  - mostly, but not all, Right Wing Tories. They were the “respectable” face of the Leave campaign. Alongside them, but not openly connected, was the “Leave.EU” group – the “Bad Cops”. Their political face was the most famous anti EU politician of them all – a man who has built his whole career on this single issue – the UKIP leader Nigel Farage. The ties between “Leave.EU” and UKIP were strong – the main funder of the campaign was Arron Banks also a major donor to UKIP.

There was barely disguised warfare between the two Leave groups throughout the referendum campaign. Many in the media and politics generally thought that this split was a weakness. As it turned out it was a crucial strength. The official campaign was (comparatively) cerebral and restrained. It seemed to be directed primarily at Conservative voters and as such it can be judged to have succeeded – 58% of Conservative voters voted “Leave”. “Leave.EU” however had a different target.

For some time now it has been clear that in the UK, as elsewhere in Europe, the main breeding ground for support for the hard Right is among the working class. In Austria recently an extreme Right presidential candidate almost succeeded – and his core support was in the working class areas of the cities, especially Vienna. In France Marine le Pen of the Front National gets substantial support in the “classe populaire” . In their book on the rise of UKIP “Revolt on the Right” Rob Ford and Matthew Goodwin identified the working class vote as being UKIP’s most fruitful recruitment area. In the 2015 General Election 39% of men who voted UKIP and 33% of women were in the C2DE social class. That’s around 1.5 million voters.    

As this graphic from Lord Ashcroft Polls shows 25% of the “Leave” vote was delivered by those who voted UKIP at the 2015 General Election. Add in the 21% which came from Labour voters and you have nearly half of the total “Leave” vote coming from voters whose main class demographic is C2DE.

If the official “Leave” campaign was comparatively (!) cerebral that from “Leave.EU” was far from that.. They understood that the target group they were trying to reach was unlikely to be persuaded by elegant arguments or by a long manifesto. Or by the likes of Lords Owen and Lawson for that matter. And while Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith would reach out to Conservative voters who shared their politics these three, and their Tory “Leave” colleagues,  would not appeal to the majority of the C2DE electorate. But Farage would! And Farage’s campaign – and that of “Leave.EU” as a whole - made a simple gut feel appeal to the this electorate. The poster at the top of this blog is the most notorious of its advertisements. But it is not atypical. Anti immigration, a fear campaign over Turkish entry to the EU (barely disguised Islamophobia) and the dog whistle “Take back control of our country” ( a deliberately ambivalent slogan which could mean “take back control from the EU” but also “take back control from immigrants”) was the core campaign.     

So UKIP voters made up a quarter of the “Leave” vote  but Nigel Farage delivered almost as large a number from Labour. And it is this final statistic that was crucial. Labour could not persuade sufficient of its own supporters to back “Remain” nor could it “get back” any from its traditional working class support who had switched over the years to UKIP.

Whether there was actual collusion between the two “Leave” campaigns and an agreement that one would be the “Good Cops” and the other the “Bad Cops” I do not know. It wouldn't surprise me. But collusion or not the split was clever with both target groups being covered. And this made the difference. But in a tight race the delivery of the UKIP and Labour vote to “Leave” was the crucial factor. The former could be assured. But it was Nigel Farage’s delivery of a substantial number of Labour voters that swung the outcome in Leave’s favour.
It was Nigel wot won it. 


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Farage may have won it but Corbyn's charisma by pass and Cameron's over reliance on scare tactics lost it.

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